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A List of 15 Recommended
Holocaust Films

by Inver Hills College Holocaust Expert
Vicky Knickerbocker


This list of Holocaust films is by Inver Hills Community College's expert on the Holocaust, Vicky Knickerbocker. She wrote it as part of her graduate work on her sabbatical and gave her permission to have the list placed on this website. The page below describes 15 films and explains why each one is worth viewing.


A List of Recommended Holocaust Films


1.  Auschwitz: If you Cried, You Died

This is a 28-minute film that chronicles the journey of two Holocaust survivors, Mike Vogel and David Mandel who traveled back to Poland to revisit Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.  These two men share their reasons for doing so, bear witness to the fact that the Holocaust did occur and document their concerns that prejudice and discrimination still exist today.  Those who watch this film will see how Auschwitz appears today and will hear candid, personal testimony and view historical footage of what it was like to be a Jewish inmate of Auschwitz in 1942. This film highlights the dangers of apathy, vividly portrays the negative consequences of hatred, and urges its viewers to be “upstanders” rather than “bystanders” in order to prevent another Holocaust from re-occurring in the future.


2. Master Race: Nazism Overtakes Germany

This 60-minute film is part of the Emmy Award-winning People's Century series co-produced by WGBH and the BBC.  This film seeks to answer the question how did the rise of Nazism occur in Germany, a highly cultured and civilized country in the 1920’s and the 1930’s.  It identifies the different forms of propaganda that the Nazis utilized throughout Germany to foster the growth of Nazism and its goals of promoting a racially pure society.  Personal testimony is provided in this film which validates why people from many walks of life found these propaganda messages and campaigns so convincing and why they supported the Nazi Regime even though this government sanctioned the brutal/inhumane treatment of those it deemed to be racially inferior.  Gypsy and Jewish survivors are also interviewed.  Their first-hand testimonials coupled with historical footage substantiates the human horrors that were committed as a result of believing the hate propaganda the Nazis skillfully disseminated via several media outlets including newspaper publications, radio broadcasts, public rallies, festive parades, and town hall meetings.   Those who view this film will see and hear ample evidence that propaganda was an exceptionally powerful weapon in helping the Nazis commit genocide.  Watching this film should encourage its viewers to think more critically about how propaganda is still being used today to shape and influence our perceptions about ourselves and others.   It should also challenge it viewers to think more seriously about the ways that they can protect themselves from being manipulated by propaganda in the future.


3. Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001)

As the title of this 2-hour film suggests, this version of the Anne Frank story is more comprehensive than most.  It not only dramatizes the Holocaust story that many viewers are familiar with and the one that is commonly retold  based on what Anne Frank has written in her diary about her childhood experiences growing up as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe and her family’s extended confinement to a secret annex to avoid Nazi deportation.  But, it tells a story that moves beyond what Anne wrote about by informing its viewers what happened to the Frank family and their friends once the Nazis discovered their hiding place and they all were arrested. 

I am motivated to show my students this film because I once was told by a teacher in her fifties that she never knew Anne Frank died.  Indeed, this film substantiates the fact that Anne died as did seven of the eight people she hid with in the secret annex because they were brutally and inhumanely treated by their Nazi captors.  This film does a great job vividly recreating the horrors the Frank family and many other Jews experienced being deported to and imprisoned in several of the Nazi concentration camps that were located in Nazi-occupied Europe.  This extended version of the Anne Frank story produced in 2001 offers its viewers a rare opportunity to see historically authenticated recreations of what happened to the Frank family and their friends once they were caught and to learn more about the fate of other Holocaust victims.  This aspect of the Holocaust experience is one that this film addresses which previous versions of the Anne Frank story had not because it was too painful to remember.  However, if it is not mentioned, is the story of Anne Frank and many other Holocaust victims complete?

Learning more about the tragic way Anne Frank and her family members died may also help any viewer think more critically about how they treat others and seriously re-evaluate the meaning of Anne Frank’s most famous quote, “I still believe people are good at heart.” Is this an accurate reflection of Anne’s whole life, or just how she was feeling at the time she penned this quote in her diary?  Would she have said the same thing in Bergen-Belsen at the time of her death when she was living in an extremely crowded and unsanitary barrack, being starved, not receiving proper medical care, and dying of typhus, simply because she was a Jew?  Although this is a sad story to watch, it is an inspirational one to watch as well because it reminds us that people who were murdered in the Holocaust were ordinary people who shared similar hopes and dreams, whose lives were abruptly snuffed out by commoners, not barbarians, who had decided to follow leaders whose ideas were based on hate and prejudice.  Watching this film should challenge its viewers to think and act differently. 

4. Swing Kids (1993)

I recommend watching this 2-hour film because it broadens its viewers’ knowledge of how the Holocaust disrupted the every-day lives of German youth and dramatizes how the Nazi Regime controlled the rebellious behavior of its youth and was able to convince them that joining the “Hitler Jugend” (Hitler Youth) was the best thing for them to do.  This film features a story about a close-knit group of defiant teens who are ardent fans of a new type of jazz music called “Swing” and their personal struggles to maintain a swing lifestyle and to listen and dance to swing music despite being persecuted by the Nazis for being moral derelicts, political non-conformists, and social misfits.  This film personalizes some of the situational circumstances that forced some of these teens to join the “Hitler Jugend” and how becoming a HJ radically changed their lives and often led to a severe splintering and disintegration of their family relationships and friendship groups.  This film provides valuable insights as to why friends became foes and family members betrayed each other during the Holocaust.  It is also a film that leaves its viewers wondering what type of wisdom is needed not to be so easily manipulated by political propaganda and what type of moral courage is needed to oppose political corruption and human rights violations of any type.


5. Sophie Scholl:  The Final Days  (2005)

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a film directed by German director Marc Rothemund which reconstructs the last six days of Sophie Scholl’s life.  Based on actual trial transcripts and official police records, this film dramatizes her arrest, her interrogation, her imprisonment, her trial, and her execution.

This film reminds its viewers that German resistance did occur and that young adults played prominent roles in the German resistance movement. It is also a reminder of how difficult resistance can be in a dictatorship.  It is a tribute to Sophie and the other members of the White Rose who exposed social injustices others chose to ignore. Using the power of the pen, these college students published information that challenged Nazi ideology and encouraged people to think and act more independently. Watching this film will help increase viewers’ awareness of how this student activism occurred and how it was confronted.

According to the Nazis, these students were “social misfits” and “criminal deviants.” Thus, many of them were condemned to die as traitors. A good portion of this film dramatizes how the Nazis manipulated the criminal justice system to their own advantage. Viewing these court scenes will increase viewers’ knowledge that even judges and lawyers played a crucial role in perpetuating Nazi tyranny. Most significantly, it raises the question of “should one be obedient to laws that violate human rights, and are such rights universal?”

This film validates the crucial role college students have played, and can continue to play, in promoting a more civil and just society.


6. Ambulance (1962)

Although this film is less than 10 minutes in length, it offers a very powerful and chilling depiction of how inhumanely the Nazis treated those they deemed to be culturally and racially inferior.  This unique, black and white film featuring no spoken narration dramatizes a fictionalized account of the Nazis forcing a group of unsuspecting, innocent school children and their school teacher to climb into the back of an ambulance which has been converted into a gas chamber to exterminate them.

Viewing this film raises critical thought about how the Nazis cleverly manipulated popular cultural symbols and created special euphemisms to deceive the public into believing what they were doing was ethical and beneficial for the greater good of society.  The film also presents a troubling representation of how unjust and cruel humans can be when they have been taught to hate others and prompts further discussion about the need for greater multicultural education.  What can be done in the future to teach people, particularly young students to be more understanding, respectful, and appreciative of cultural differences?


7. America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference (1994)

Two of the questions about the Holocaust that I have been commonly asked by college students are, “What did Americans know about the Holocaust?” and “What did they do to help the Jews?”  Frequently, I have responded to these two questions, by recommending the viewing of the film, “America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference.”

This 90-minute film based on 10 years of scholarly research conducted by David S. Wyman provides troubling historical documentation that the Roosevelt Administration did not respond timely to Jewish refugees who wanted to flee Nazi-occupied Europe.  This film spotlights the scandalous actions of government officials to suppress the public’s knowledge of the Holocaust and to deliberately prevent and sabotage efforts to help Jews trying desperately to immigrate to the United States to escape Nazi persecution.  To personalize how difficult it was for Jewish refugees to immigrate to the United States during the Holocaust, this film highlights the real-life struggle of Kurt Klein, a German-Jewish immigrant who tried diligently to bring his parents from Germany to the United States so that they could evade Nazi persecution.  In this film, Kurt reads letters he wrote to his parents that identify significant bureaucratic obstacles and policy obstructions that foiled his determined attempt to do so.

This film ends on a triumphant note.  Although Kurt is not able to rescue his parents, he is successful in rescuing some other severely persecuted victims of the Holocaust in a very unexpected way.  One of these women is Gerda Weissman, who will become Kurt’s future wife.

Those who view this film are often very surprised to learn that the political and social climate in the United States during the 1940’s was not a welcoming one for Jewish refugees and that anti-Semitism was so pervasive in the United States during this time frame that the number of Jewish refugees who received any help at all was quite nominal.  Could this number have been much larger if anti-Semitism would not have been so great and the United States government would have responded more timely?

This film raises critical thought about how the American government and its citizens could treat victims of genocide better in the future.


8. One Survivor Remembers (1996)

This is a 40-minute documentary that personalizes the life experiences of a Polish, Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissman Klein.  In this Academy Award-winning HBO movie, Gerda narrates her Holocaust experiences and historical footage is used to vividly authenticate them.  This documentary is an important one for students to watch as it provides a brief historical overview of Gerda’s Holocaust experiences and features actual interviews, photographs, and footage to document how the Nazi occupation affected her life personally.  Students are able to see where Gerda grew up, where she was imprisoned in the ghetto, where she worked in a slave labor camp, where she was forced to take part in a death march and where she was liberated by her future husband, Kurt Klein.  Finally, students learn what happened to Gerda after her liberation. 

This film can also be used to provoke some thoughtful classroom discussions about real-life applications.  Students can be encouraged to discuss in greater depth many contemporary social issues that relate to or connect wth Gerda’s Holocaust experiences such as the persistence of anti-Semitism, racial stereotyping, bullying, public apathy, hate crimes, Holocaust denial, hunger, and genocide.  The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project provides several lesson plans to help teachers do so.  These lesson plans can be easily accessed by clicking on the four web-links highlighted below:






9. The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009)

This film is worth watching for several reasons. First, it honors the historical contributions of Irena Sendler, a courageous social worker who saved the lives of over 2,500 children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto in very ingenious ways.  Those who watch this film will see historical dramatizations of how some of these unique rescues took place and will witness the incredible risks Irena and other Righteous Gentiles took to save the lives of these children.

Secondly, it pays tribute to the many bold Jewish women who made extremely painful decisions to relinquish the care of their children to Irena as she promised to find these children a safer haven outside of the ghetto walls.  It provides vivid reconstructions of the conversations Irena may have had with these Jewish women and documents how difficult it was for her to persuade these Jewish mothers to send their children away and to trust others (in many situations, complete strangers) to take good care of them.  Many of these women made heart-wrenching sacrifices to let their children go with Irena.  Ultimately, these life-saving measures prevented these children from being deported from the Warsaw ghetto and sent to Nazi death camps and murdered like so many of their family members and neighbors would be.

Thirdly, it highlights the positive difference young people can make.  Those who watch this film will learn about the influential role four high school students from Uniontown, Kansas have played in promoting the public’s knowledge of Irena’s heroic actions which ultimately led to this film’s production in 2009, some ten years after they completed a special National History Day Project about her.  To learn more about the play they wrote and have performed in numerous venues over the past decade to commemorate her unique historical achievements, I encourage visiting the Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project website by clicking on the web-link below:


Fourthly, it stresses the power of collective activism and collaborative teamwork.  To find out more about the others who helped Irena successfully rescue so many children in the Warsaw ghetto, I would advise the viewing of a follow-up film PBS produced in 2011 called “Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers.”   More details about this film can be easily accessed by clicking on the web-link below:


Lastly, this film teaches college students many important life lessons about the need to make ethical choices, to take personal risks, to respect cultural differences, to be creative thinkers, and to be resourceful, group problem-solvers.

10.    The Courage to Care (1986)

This 28-minute film shows compelling evidence of how ordinary people chose not to be passive bystanders during the Holocaust.  It features three stories of individuals who were rescuers and two stories of individuals who were rescued.  Each one of these individuals testifies how personal actions taken by themselves or others made a positive difference and offers some explanation about why they were helped or chose to help others despite the incredible risks involved.  The oral histories that these five individuals provide also substantiate the fact that efforts to save Jews and resistance to Nazi tyranny were more widespread in Nazi-occupied Europe than is often commonly believed.

I am particularly intrigued by this film because it features a story of rescue that involved the Trocmé family whose daughter Nellie eventually immigrated to the United States, moved to Minnesota, and was a French teacher at Breck High School in Minneapolis, MN for several years.  She and I have co-authored a 2-page educational handout that offers short summaries of the rescue testimonials featured in this film that can be accessed by clicking on the web-link below:


This film raises critical thought about the personal choices one makes and how the righteous actions of the “upstanders” featured in this film may be emulated by others in the future.


11.  Haven (2001)

Initially a TV mini-series which was broadcasted in February of 2001, this film spotlights the one legitimate effort made by the United States government to save Holocaust refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in August, 1944.  This rescue was largely facilitated by Ruth Gruber and resulted in about 1,000 persecuted Jews securing safe haven in Fort Oswego, New York.  It dramatizes Ruth’s courageous and defiant actions to bring these refugees safely to the United States and to make certain that they were treated fairly once they were granted a safe place to live in the United States.  This film also portrays with historical authenticity the difficult life transitions many of these Jewish refugees experienced living in an American refugee camp and how some of these personal and situational hardships were eventually overcome.  Three important questions this film helps to answer are, “How did the United States government actually help Jewish refugees?”, “How successful were their helping efforts?” and “What else could have been done differently?


12.  Pigeon (2004)

This unique 10- minute film which was produced by a college student studying cinematography at NYC dramatizes a simple act of kindness which leaves its audience wondering why a total stranger would risk her own life to come to the aid of a Jew fleeing Nazi occupied France.   Teachers can use this film to promote students’ knowledge of the Holocaust and to help them develop their media literacy skills.

After watching this film, students should be encouraged to discuss in greater detail why this film was produced, what makes it a good film to watch, and how this film producer used a variety of film techniques to tell this story.  

Students could also be asked to conduct further research about the topic of Holocaust rescue and resistance to determine how commonplace these simple acts of kindness were. Furthermore, they could also be asked to conduct additional research about the historical persecution of other minority groups to determine how the persecution of minority groups compares over time and relates to what is happening in society today.

A teacher’s guide for this film can be easily downloaded by clicking on the web-link below:



13.  As Seen Through These Eyes (2008)

This 70-minute film based on the hundreds of interviews that writer, director, and producer Hilary Helstein conducted during her work with Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation emphasizes the important role artistic expression and creative resistance played in the lives of those who were victims of Nazi persecution.  It dramatizes how children and adults persecuted by the Nazis used the power of the pen, the paint brush, and musical instruments to creatively resist Nazi tyranny. This film also documents how their artistic talents saved their lives during the Holocaust and helped them after being liberated to produce additional artwork which now serves as lasting reminders of the horrific atrocities the Nazis committed and how costly racial hatred can be. 

The interviews of several artists who survived the Holocaust are featured in this film, including those who are Jews and Gypsies.  These survivors talk about their Holocaust experiences and discuss how they have used their artwork to survive the Holocaust and recover afterwards.  These oral interviews are well complemented by archival film, photographs, and visual images of artwork to showcase these artists’ determined efforts to produce contraband renderings of their persecution experiences on any scrap of paper or discarded media they could find in three different Nazi concentration camps.  These being: Theresienstad, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Mauthausen.  

By showcasing the brilliant artwork these artists produced, this film stresses two crucial messages: Good can triumph over evil, and the human spirit to create and communicate cannot be easily stifled or silenced.

I believe this film is suitable for many different audiences and could be used in a wide range of college classrooms.  It could be used by:

1. Humanities instructors.  To enrich students’ knowledge of the art and the music produced by Jews and Gypsies, to promote their awareness of contraband art, to fortify  their  appreciation of numerous art forms, to strengthen their media literacy skills, and to foster their creative genius.

2. History instructors.  To enhance students’ knowledge of genocide, human rights struggles. and social justice reformers.

3. Sociology instructors.  To promote students’ understanding of political repression, artistic resistance, and student activism.


14.  Still I’m Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust

As the title of this 48-minute film implies, the diaries of young people are used to shed light on the historical reality of the Holocaust.  Actually, fifteen excerpts are featured which represent a vast and diverse range of life-changing events these children and their family members experienced during the Holocaust.  They are written by young people who range in age from 12 to 21who have expressed the suffering they and their family members endured while living under Nazi rule; being robbed of their personal possessions, stripped of their personal freedom, evicted from their homes, humiliated publicly, separated from family members, forced to go into hiding, pressured to assume false identities, and imprisoned in ghettos.  These young people personalize their stories by providing a descriptive narrative of what actually happened to them or their family members and offering some explanation of their emotional reactions to these life-altering experiences, be it fear, hope, doubt, disillusionment, sorrow, shame, disgust, or anger. 

Those who watch this film will see and hear the horrific consequences of hatred, Anti-Semitism, racism, and brutal power used by the Nazis to discriminate against and eliminate every child, woman, and man identified as Jewish, as well as other people deemed by the Nazis to be useless and unworthy of life.  This film brings to life the diaries of young people who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust by having their diary entries read out loud by some of today’s most talented young actors and by masterfully bleinding together the reading of these excerpts with several types of historical artifacts including family photos, handwritten pages and drawings from these diaries, archival films, and historical footage.  Evocative music produced by Grammy Award nominee Moby also enhances the viewing of this film.

These diary entries featured in this film were carefully chosen by Alexandra Zapruder, a former researcher at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum who gathered and conducted extensive research about the diaries written by young people in occupied Europe for at least a decade and wrote a book about her research findings called, “Salvaged Pages.”  She did so to give greater voice to the young people who wrote these diaries, to expand students’ knowledge of the diaries that were written by young people during the Holocaust, to foster students’ media literacy skills, to help students develop their own creative genius, and to inspire future generations of students (young and old) to act better.  She contends that although the Nazis tried to eradicate all the young people who wrote these diaries, they did not succeed and today these young people’s diaries live on to encourage others to make their positive mark in history as well.

Alexander has authored a study guide for this film which offers recommended pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing educational activities.  This study guide can be downloaded from the following website:



15.  Worse Than War - Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity  (2009)

This film produced by PBS explores the haunting problem of genocide in the 20th and 21st centuries and reminds its viewers that genocide is not a rare or isolated problem but one that has occurred in many different parts of the world over the course of the last one hundred years.

“All told, in our time [the last 100 years], there have been more than 100 million innocent victims of genocide—more than all the combat deaths in all the wars fought during that time everywhere in the world.”

The major way this film emphasizes its primary message which is that genocide and elimination are global problems and should be global concerns is by documenting the human atrocities that genocide has caused across the world, from Bosnia to Guatemala and from Cambodia to Germany and Rwanda.  To personalize these human atrocities and to validate the need for global concern, Daniel Goldhagen, a noted genocide scholar, speaks with numerous individuals including victims, perpetrators, witnesses, politicians, diplomats, and journalists.  He does so in the hope that by sharing their testimonials all those who watch this film will think more seriously about issues of genocide, feel increased empathy for its victims, and be inspired to take greater initiative to finally put a stop to genocide.

To further promote students’ understanding of this film, Goldhagen has collaborated with Facing History and Ourselves to develop a companion study guide for high school and college teachers.   This study guide can be easily accessed by clicking on the following web-link:


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See also a list of Holocaust and related films on genocide and war by clicking on "Other Films, and then scrolling down to find "Films about Non-African War and victims of War." 


First published 1 Aug. 2014

Updated 1 Aug.. 2014



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